Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Diego

Healing Wars
La Jolla Playhouse
Review by Bill Eadie | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's review of Full Gallop

Paul Hurley and Keith A. Thompson
Liz Lerman is a dance celebrity who pushes her art in interesting directions. She's a MacArthur "Genius Grant" recipient and her piece, Healing Wars, results from her effort to open dance to tell stories of people not trained in dance.

In the production currently on display at La Jolla Playhouse, Paul Hurley's story is the centerpiece. Mr. Hurley had some performance training at Washington, D.C.'s well-regarded Duke Ellington School of the Arts before enlisting in the U. S. Navy with hopes of becoming a Navy SEAL. He was injured in Iraq, and his leg was amputated above the knee. Mr. Hurley wears a prosthetic device, and his device figures prominently in the telling of his story.

The Hurley story is contrasted with several other stories, drawn from the U.S. Civil War. One of those stories, of the work of Clara Barton, is a famous one. Others are not and include a man who is locked away by his family after he exhibits mental difficulties as a result of the war, a woman who disguises herself as a soldier, and a young man who goes off to battle and finds death awaiting him.

Musical theatre actor Jeffry Denman serves as a primary narrator, though several of the dancers have lines and Mr. Denman also dances a little. Miko Doi-Smith takes a central dance role as a spirit guide who comes to the aid of the wounded and the dying.

Healing Wars is the centerpiece of the Playhouse's biennial "Without Walls" Festival. The festival opens October 9 for a three-day run, though Healing Wars runs longer. All of the work in the festival is immersive, and Healing Wars has an immersive component prior to the performance, in which audience members are led through the backstage area of the theatre past a series of vignettes that introduce them to the cast members and to their primary stories. The performance begins after all audience members have progressed through and have taken their seats. The vignettes are helpful in identifying stories that appear during the dance/theatre program that follows; otherwise, the modern dance vocabulary might be confusing, at least initially.

As presented, though, Healing Wars is a profoundly sobering look at war and its aftermath and particularly serves to remind audiences of how little things have actually changed over the course of time.

Healing Wars, through October 25, 2015, at the Mandell Weiss Forum Theatre, on the La Jolla Playhouse campus. Performances are scheduled for Sundays at 7pm, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7:30pm, and Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8pm, with matinee performances at 2pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are available by calling (858) 550-1010 or by visiting

Concept and direction by Liz Lerman, choreography created by Liz Lerman and Keith Thompson in collaboration with the performers, original text sources curated by Liz Lerman and Bill Pullman—devised text developed in collaboration with the performers.

The performers are Jeffry Denman, Miko Doi-Smith, Meghan Frederick, George Hirsch, Paul Hurley, Ted Johnson, Tamara Hurwitz Pullman, and Keith A. Thompson.

The creative team includes David Israel Reynoso (scenic and costume design), Jen Schriever (lighting design), Darron L. West (sound design), and Kate Freer (media design).

The production is part of the "Without Walls" festival, running October 9-11, 2015, with some events running longer. Performing companies involved in the festival include CORPUS (Canada), Bricolage Production Company (Pittsburgh), Ubuntu Theatre Project (San Francisco), and Chalk Repertory Theatre (Los Angeles). For further information on the festival, visit

Photo: Jim Carmody

See the current season schedule for the San Diego area.

- Bill Eadie

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